A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O’Connor

A Good Man is Hard to FindO’Connor’s first book of short stories is hard to put down; it’s full of cultural insight into the post-bellum south and round, deeply flawed characters. “The River” is a germ about a child growing up in dysfunctional family. “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” “Good Country People,” and “The Temple of the Holy Ghost” are must reads. “A Late Encounter with the Enemy” is a scornful condemnation a number of old men who lied about serving in the Civil War, after all of the real veterans were dead. O’Connor’s settings are grotesque and memorable, very few of her stories end happily although her stories possess a degree of verisimilitude many authors lack. “The Displaced Person,” the last story in her collection, is a chilling tale of bigotry and pettiness; a thought provoking and memorable yarn. It is difficult to forget the lead up and ending of The Displaced Person; arguably it’s the best crafted piece in the collection.

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Review Submitted by: Kevin Oldfield
Rating: Highly Recommended

One thought on “A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O’Connor

  1. Chris Owens

    This is probably one of the best collections of short stories out there. Nobody did short stories better. Written fifty years ago, sure, but reading and re-reading these stories over the years, I have to say that O’Connor was one of the best short story writers of the past century, hands down.

    I don’t care if it’s southern gothic or grotesque or whatever O’Connor is labeled in Academia, or whatever her place in literary history may be, or if some readers disagree and find her stories boring or depressing (sigh); these stories are so effortlessly masterful, and when you read an O’Connor story, it’s like hearing a unique singer’s voice, Johnny Cash or Otis Redding: you know it’s O’Connor the second you start the story. Each one begins at just the right moment, the dialogue and characters and situations are so REAL, despite the outward absurdity of them, she convinces you through her rendering, that these events happened.

    Think of it her as the reality TV of the fiction world, as horrible as that may sound. Her characters don’t “act” and aren’t pawned into position, they are real, and they speak realistically, they behave realistically, and the stories are told in such a way that you feel you aren’t reading a story at all, but imagining the same dream she had when she wrote them. She never betrays her characters, never condescends or makes fun of them, and her metaphors, BTW, are the best their were (“her face was as broad and innocent as a cabbage”); the way she dropped into a story, pieced out the characters, how she developed tension and situations that often yield tragic circumstances, her language…well, she does it so convincingly, and I am not one easily convinced.

    O’Connor was the genuine article, and this book is the evidence of her indisputible greatness. It’s been said that O’Connor claimed she wrote all these stories as parables, and I think when you read them you’ll see (and what many people have trouble with) is that her stories do have a picaresque quality to them, and the characters at times do seem like stock southern characters. But its how well she knows these characters, how she protrays them that makes them so memorable. She rose to fame being one of the voices of the South – and perhaps some of the book is therefore dated and not as cutting edge as it was then. But it has endured, on the strength and appeal of the stories.

    Is O’Connor for everyone? Heck no. But I guarantee you – guarantee you – if you read one of her stories, even if you don’t like it, it’ll haunt you for years, you’ll remember all the little moments as if you’d dreamt them yourself. And you’ll come back, whether by accident or purposefully, and you’ll re-read the story, and it’ll mess you up. She’s THAT good.

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